The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
Trouble with a Capital “T”
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (p. 803) September 11, 2016
We started a new study this last Wednesday evening…it’s powerful stuff from Kyle Idleman called, “The End of Me”…It’s theme is “Where Real Life in the Upside-Down Ways of Jesus Begins.”
His introduction starts out:
[“I was returning a call to a man named Brian. I read in my notes that his 18 month old son had died a few weeks earlier…I didn’t know the details, but as a father of 4, I can’t imagine such a loss. I said a prayer as I dialed his number. Brian answered with a monotone “Hello.” Having had many conversations like this over the past 20 years, I knew there was not much I could say. So, after expressing my heartbreak for his loss, I allowed silence to settle into our conversation. After a few moments, Brian spoke 4 words that I was not prepared for.
“I backed over him.”
He went on…to explain that they didn’t know their son had walked outside…In fact they didn’t even know he was capable of opening the door to go outside.]
After describing this horrible experience he went on to describe how he’s discovered Jesus in a way he never had before His faith had gone from attending church once in a while as tradition to running into God’s arms in complete desperation.
Brian then said this:
“I feel like I’d reached this point in my life when I had absolutely nothing left, and it turns out that for the first time in my life, Jesus has become real. Do you know what I mean? Is that unusual?”
No, it’s not unusual…when he reached the end of himself he discovered Jesus.
Most of us try to live our lives depending on our own resources…our intellect, our strength, our money, our endurace…but what happens when that resource runs out? What happens when that bank account is empty?
The Apostle Paul writes:
2 CORINTHIANS 1:8-10 (p. 803)
Let me ask you a question: How do you view God in your troubles?
I. CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE AND YOU WILL CHANGE YOUR MINISTRY
In the midst of pain and suffering, grief and confusion, fill our souls…it’s not fun to be laying on the floor filled with such hurt all you can do is moan and cry out. Why did you let this happen God? Why didn’t you intervene? comes from David the Psalmist’s lips and they’ve come from yours and mine! And if they haven’t yet, they will.
It’s that place Paul describes “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired at life itself…we felt like we’d received a death sentence.”
The Apostle Paul then answers the why is this happening question.
“This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”
This is exactly what Jesus, God’s Son meant, when He said, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”
Poor means “bankrupt.” “Without the resources to pay.” As Kyle Idleman puts it…”Blessed are you when you reach the end of me.”
How can we think we’re blessed when we’re at this place? I’d ask Abraham as the knife was raised…Daniel as he stood before the lions den…Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as they stood in front of the furnace…I’d look to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a matter of faith for God’s children…Do we believe God is for us or against us? Can we trust He has a plan when we can’t, see beyond the immediate circumstances because of our pain? Can we believe “he has delivered us from such deadly peril and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us.
Do you know the sacrifices God desires more than any other sacrifice? More than our time, money and talents? Psalm 51:17 tells us… “The sacrifice God desires is a broken Spirit…God will not reject a broken and repentant heart.”
So at our place of brokenness…when our resources are gone we have a choice…lay it on an altar of trust and worship or carry it like victims with bitterness.
If you choose the second, your life will take a downward spiral…If you choose the first, you’ve found your purpose for ministry…It allows you and me as God’s children to say.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4)
[Its like this…Have you ever noticed that after you buy a car you notice every other car like yours on the road…Before the purchase you wouldn’t have paid that much attention…but now that you own one you notice all the other people who own one…like yours.]
Once you’ve paid the price for divorce, for the death of a child, for the burn unit, or almost any other suffering…and you’ve trusted God through it…you are spiritually sensitive to all the other people who have purchased that car…and you want to love and help them…that’s ministry…and the most powerful words hurting people can hear is “ME TOO.”
Paul said, “If we are comforted it’s for your comfort.”
By the way you cannot experience the amazing comfort of God unless you’re uncomfortable.
There are two kinds of people in this life…Those who focus on themselves…and those who because they’ve been born again and have adopted the attitude of Jesus, focus on serving others. It doesn’t take long to see which one a person has adopted does it? Just listen to their conversation about something they are asked to sacrifice for others.
God’s Church doesn’t primarily exist for those who are already in it…it exists for those who aren’t…many of them are hurting through the same things we go through…looking for answers…and poor in Spirit people have the answer.
II. OUR COMFORT ABOUNDS THROUGH CHRIST
Not through Vicodin, not through Jim Beam or Jack Daniels…not through sexual conquests or an abundance of possessions…our comfort abounds through Christ!
Let me share with you a hard truth that maybe you haven’t considered. God’s people will go through the same sufferings and difficulties as non-believers. Sometimes because we live in a fallen world…and sometimes because we still do sinful things. Listen to what Jesus says:
MATTHEW 5:43-48 (p. 678)
The world has a philosophy to deal with hurtful people and hurtful times…and God’s children are called to not use it…but be like their Dad…the sun shines on both…it rains on both… “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
[I’m not crazy about the word “perfect” there because in English it means “without any flaws or mistakes.” But in the original language it means “To do what you were made to do.”
I love my East-wing hammer…it’s been all over the world with me…it’s rusty, scarred and dirty. (lots of flaws) But this hammer is perfect when it’s driving nails because it’s doing what its made to do.]
Each of us are made to love God with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength and our neighbors as ourselves.
And biblically we are perfect when we are doing it…it’s why we were made.
And the only way the world can see a difference is if “Our comfort abounds through Christ.” Whether the sun’s out or if it’s a hurricane.
[When I was 10 I was burned really badly, 50% of my body…3rd degree burns that were covered in skin grafts from my legs…I was in 4th grade…I won’t go into all the details but I used to be asked by children and adults alike “What happened to your face?” (I recommend that you not do that with a 10 year old). After a while I got tired of it and responded “What happened to yours?” I used to pray…all the time…for God to miraculously take away the scars that made me so different…ugly. He didn’t…and I didn’t know why He didn’t answer my prayers…why wouldn’t God care…Why would He let me keep the scars.
I know why now…my scars made me a better minister…my scars let me see others who are scarred differently. My scars eventually changed my heart. I’ve been through the fire so I’m not afraid of much…but I am afraid of not using my scarred flawed body to gratify a Father who had a plan for me. I’ve learned that when we surrender that which is hardest, for His glory and for others, He proves His power over and over again.]